That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen
by Frederic Bastiat, 1850
In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an
institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series
of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it
manifests itself simultaneously with its cause — it is seen. The others
unfold in succession — they are not seen: it is well for us, if they
are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes
the whole difference — the one takes account of the visible effect; the
other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of
those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is
enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate
consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and
the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a
small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come,
while the true economist pursues a great good to come, — at the risk of
a small present evil.
In fact, it is the same in the science of health, arts, and
in that of morals. It often happens, that the sweeter the first
fruit of a habit is, the more bitter are the consequences. Take, for
example, debauchery, idleness, prodigality. When, therefore, a man
absorbed in the effect which is seen has not yet learned to discern
those which are not seen, he gives way to fatal habits, not only by
inclination, but by calculation.
This explains the fatally grievous condition of mankind.
Ignorance surrounds its cradle: then its actions are determined by
their first consequences, the only ones which, in its first stage,
it can see. It is only in the long run that it learns to take
account of the others. It has to learn this lesson from two very
different masters — experience and foresight. Experience teaches
effectually, but brutally. It makes us acquainted with all the effects
of an action, by causing us to feel them; and we cannot fail to finish
by knowing that fire burns, if we have burned ourselves. For this
rough teacher, I should like, if possible, to substitute a more gentle
one. I mean Foresight. For this purpose I shall examine the
consequences of certain economical phenomena, by placing in opposition
to each other those which are seen, and those which are not seen.
I. THE BROKEN WINDOW
Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James
B., when his careless son happened to break a square of glass? If
you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear
witness to the fact, that every one of the spectators, were there even
thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the
unfortunate owner this invariable consolation — "It is an ill wind that
blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the
glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?"
Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which
it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is
precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater
part of our economical institutions.
Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say
that the accident brings six francs to the glazier's trade — that it
encourages that trade to the amount of six francs — I grant it; I
have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier
comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and,
in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is
But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is
too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that
it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry
in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out,
"Stop there! your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes
no account of that which is not seen."
It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon
one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if
he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced
his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he
would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident
Let us take a view of industry in general, as affected by
this circumstance. The window being broken, the glazier's trade is
encouraged to the amount of six francs; this is that which is seen. If
the window had not been broken, the shoemaker's trade (or some
other) would have been encouraged to the amount of six francs; this is
that which is not seen.
And if that which is not seen is taken into consideration,
because it is a negative fact, as well as that which is seen,
because it is a positive fact, it will be understood that neither
industry in general, nor the sum total of national labour, is
affected, whether windows are broken or not.
Now let us consider James B. himself. In the former
supposition, that of the window being broken, he spends six francs,
and has neither more nor less than he had before, the enjoyment of a
In the second, where we suppose the window not to have been
broken, he would have spent six francs on shoes, and would have had at
the same time the enjoyment of a pair of shoes and of a window.
Now, as James B. forms a part of society, we must come to the
conclusion, that, taking it altogether, and making an estimate of
its enjoyments and its labours, it has lost the value of the broken
When we arrive at this unexpected conclusion: "Society loses
the value of things which are uselessly destroyed;" and we must assent
to a maxim which will make the hair of protectionists stand on end — To
break, to spoil, to waste, is not to encourage national labour; or,
more briefly, "destruction is not profit."
What will you say, Monsieur Industriel — what will you say,
disciples of good M. F. Chamans, who has calculated with so much
precision how much trade would gain by the burning of Paris, from
the number of houses it would be necessary to rebuild?
I am sorry to disturb these ingenious calculations, as far as
their spirit has been introduced into our legislation; but I beg him
to begin them again, by taking into the account that which is not
seen, and placing it alongside of that which is seen. The reader
must take care to remember that there are not two persons only, but
three concerned in the little scene which I have submitted to his
attention. One of them, James B., represents the consumer, reduced, by
an act of destruction, to one enjoyment instead of two. Another
under the title of the glazier, shows us the producer, whose trade
is encouraged by the accident. The third is the shoemaker (or some
other tradesman), whose labour suffers proportionably by the same
cause. It is this third person who is always kept in the shade, and
who, personating that which is not seen, is a necessary element of the
problem. It is he who shows us how absurd it is to think we see a
profit in an act of destruction. It is he who will soon teach us
that it is not less absurd to see a profit in a restriction, which is,
after all, nothing else than a partial destruction. Therefore, if
you will only go to the root of all the arguments which are adduced in
its favour, all you will find will be the paraphrase of this vulgar
saying — What would become of the glaziers, if nobody ever broke
II. THE DISBANDING OF TROOPS.
It is the same with a people as it is with a man. If it
wishes to give itself some gratification, it naturally considers
whether it is worth what it costs. To a nation, security is the
greatest of advantages. If, in order to obtain it, it is necessary
to have an army of a hundred thousand men, I have nothing to say
against it. It is an enjoyment bought by a sacrifice. Let me not be
misunderstood upon the extent of my position. A member of the assembly
proposes to disband a hundred thousand men, for the sake of
relieving the tax-payers of a hundred millions.
If we confine ourselves to this answer — "The hundred millions
of men, and these hundred millions of money, are indispensable to
the national security: it is a sacrifice; but without this
sacrifice, France would be torn by factions, or invaded by some
foreign power," — I have nothing to object to this argument, which
may be true or false in fact, but which theoretically contains nothing
which militates against economy. The error begins when the sacrifice
itself is said to be an advantage because it profits somebody.
Now I am very much mistaken if, the moment the author of the
proposal has taken his seat, some orator will not rise and say
— "Disband a hundred thousand men! do you know what you are saying?
What will become of them? Where will they get a living? Don't you know
that work is scarce everywhere? That every field is overstocked? Would
you turn them out of doors to increase competition, and weigh upon the
rate of wages? Just now, when it is a hard matter to live at all, it
would be a pretty thing if the State must find bread for a hundred
thousand individuals? Consider, besides, that the army consumes
wine, clothing, arms — that it promotes the activity of manufactures in
garrison towns — that it is, in short, the god-send of innumerable
purveyors. Why, any one must tremble at the bare idea of doing away
with this immense industrial movement."
This discourse, it is evident, concludes by voting the
maintenance of a hundred thousand soldiers, for reasons drawn from the
necessity of the service, and from economical considerations. It is
these considerations only that I have to refute.
A hundred thousand men, costing the tax-payers a hundred
millions of money, live and bring to the purveyors as much as a
hundred millions can supply. This is that which is seen.
But, a hundred millions taken from the pockets of the
tax-payers, cease to maintain these taxpayers and the purveyors, as
far as a hundred minions reach. This is that which is not seen. Now
make your calculations. Cast up, and tell me what profit there is
for the masses?
I will tell you where the loss lies; and to simplify it,
instead of speaking of a hundred thousand men and a million of
money, it shall be of one man, and a thousand francs.
We will suppose that we are in the village of A. The recruiting
sergeants go their round, and take off a man. The tax-gatherers go
their round, and take off a thousand francs. The man and the sum of
money are taken to Metz, and the latter is destined to support the
former for a year without doing anything. If you consider Metz only,
you are quite right; the measure is a very advantageous one: but if
you look towards the village of A., you will judge very differently;
for, unless you are very blind indeed, you will see that that
village has lost a worker, and the thousand francs which would
remunerate his labour, as well as the activity which, by the
expenditure of those thousand francs, it would spread around it.
At first sight, there would seem to be some compensation.
What took place at the village, now takes place at Metz, that is
all. But the loss is to be estimated in this way: — At the village, a
man dug and worked; he was a worker. At Metz, he turns to the right
about, and to the left about; he is a soldier. The money and the
circulation are the same in both cases; but in the one there were
three hundred days of productive labour; in the other, there are three
hundred days of unproductive labour, supposing, of course, that a part
of the army is not indispensable to the public safety.
Now, suppose the disbanding to take place. You tell me there
will be a surplus of a hundred thousand workers, that competition will
be stimulated, and it will reduce the rate of wages. This is what
But what you do not see is this. You do not see that to dismiss
a hundred thousand soldiers is not to do away with a million of money,
but to return it to the tax-payers. You do not see that to throw a
hundred thousand workers on the market, is to throw into it, at the
same moment, the hundred millions of money needed to pay for their
labour; that, consequently, the same act which increases the supply of
hands, increases also the demand; from which it follows, that your
fear of a reduction of wages is unfounded. You do not see that, before
the disbanding as well as after it, there are in the country a hundred
millions of money corresponding with the hundred thousand men. That
the whole difference consists in this: before the disbanding, the
country gave the hundred millions to the hundred thousand men for
doing nothing; and that after it, it pays them the same sum for
working. You do not see, in short, that when a tax-payer gives his
money either to a soldier in exchange for nothing, or to a worker in
exchange for something, all the ultimate consequences of the
circulation of this money are the same in the two cases; only, in
the second case, the tax-payer receives something, in the former he
receives nothing. The result is — a dead loss to the nation.
The sophism which I am here combating will not stand the test
of progression, which is the touchstone of principles. If, when
every compensation is made, and all interests are satisfied, there
is a national profit in increasing the army, why not enroll under
its banners the entire male population of the country?
Have you ever chanced to hear it said "There is no better
investment than taxes. Only see what a number of families it
maintains, and consider how it reacts on industry; it is an
inexhaustible stream, it is life itself."
In order to combat this doctrine, I must refer to my
preceding refutation. Political economy knew well enough that its
arguments were not so amusing that it could be said of them,
repetitions please. It has, therefore, turned the proverb to its own
use, well convinced that, in its mouth, repetitions teach.
The advantages which officials advocate are those which are
seen. The benefit which accrues to the providers is still that which
is seen. This blinds all eyes.
But the disadvantages which the tax-payers have to get rid of
are those which are not seen. And the injury which results from it
to the providers, is still that which is not seen, although this ought
to be self-evident.
When an official spends for his own profit an extra hundred
sous, it implies that a tax-payer spends for his profit a hundred sous
less. But the expense of the official is seen, because the act is
performed, while that of the tax-payer is not seen, because, alas!
he is prevented from performing it.
You compare the nation, perhaps, to a parched tract of land,
and the tax to a fertilizing rain. Be it so. But you ought also to ask
yourself where are the sources of this rain and whether it is not
the tax itself which draws away the moisture from the ground and dries
Again, you ought to ask yourself whether it is possible that
the soil can receive as much of this precious water by rain as it
loses by evaporation?
There is one thing very certain, that when James B. counts
out a hundred sous for the tax-gatherer, he receives nothing in
return. Afterwards, when an official spends these hundred sous and
returns them to James B., it is for an equal value of corn or
labour. The final result is a loss to James B. of five francs.
It is very true that often, perhaps very often, the official
performs for James B. an equivalent service. In this case there is
no loss on either side; there is merely in exchange. Therefore, my
arguments do not at all apply to useful functionaries. All I say is,
— if you wish to create an office, prove its utility. Show that its
value to James B., by the services which it performs for him, is equal
to what it costs him. But, apart from this intrinsic utility, do not
bring forward as an argument the benefit which it confers upon the
official, his family, and his providers; do not assert that it
When James B. gives a hundred pence to a Government officer,
for a really useful service, it is exactly the same as when he gives a
hundred sous to a shoemaker for a pair of shoes.
But when James B. gives a hundred sous to a Government officer,
and receives nothing for them unless it be annoyances, he might as
well give them to a thief. It is nonsense to say that the Government
officer will spend these hundred sous to the great profit of
national labour; the thief would do the same; and so would James B.,
if he had not been stopped on the road by the extra-legal parasite,
nor by the lawful sponger.
Let us accustom ourselves, then, to avoid judging of things
by what is seen only, but to judge of them by that which is not seen.
Last year I was on the Committee of Finance, for under the
constituency the members of the opposition were not systematically
excluded from all the Commissions: in that the constituency acted
wisely. We have heard M. Thiers say — "I have passed my life in
opposing the legitimist party, and the priest party. Since the
common danger has brought us together, now that I associate with
them and know them, and now that we speak face to face, I have found
out that they are not the monsters I used to imagine them."
Yes, distrust is exaggerated, hatred is fostered among
parties who never mix; and if the majority would allow the minority to
be present at the Commissions, it would perhaps be discovered that the
ideas of the different sides are not so far removed from each other,
and, above all, that their intentions are not so perverse as is
supposed. However, last year I was on the Committee of Finance. Every
time that one of our colleagues spoke of fixing at a moderate figure
the maintenance of the President of the Republic, that of the
ministers, and of the ambassadors, it was answered—
"For the good of the service, it is necessary to surround
certain offices with splendour and dignity, as a means of attracting
men of merit to them. A vast number of unfortunate persons apply to
the President of the Republic, and it would be placing him in a very
painful position to oblige him to be constantly refusing them. A
certain style in the ministerial saloons is a part of the machinery of
Although such arguments may be controverted, they certainly
deserve a serious examination. They are based upon the public
interest, whether rightly estimated or not; and as far as I am
concerned, I have much more respect for them than many of our Catos
have, who are actuated by a narrow spirit of parsimony or of jealousy.
But what revolts the economical part of my conscience, and
makes me blush for the intellectual resources of my country, is when
this absurd relic of feudalism is brought forward, which it constantly
is, and it is favourably received too:—
"Besides, the luxury of great Government officers encourages
the arts, industry, and labour. The head of the State and his
ministers cannot give banquets and soirees without causing life to
circulate through all the veins of the social body. To reduce their
means, would starve Parisian industry, and consequently that of the
I must beg you, gentlemen, to pay some little regard to
arithmetic, at least; and not to say before the National Assembly in
France, lest to its shame it should agree with you, that an addition
gives a different sum, according to whether it is added up from the
bottom to the top, or from the top to the bottom of the column.
For instance, I want to agree with a drainer to make a trench
in my field for a hundred sous. Just as we have concluded our
arrangement, the tax-gatherer comes, takes my hundred sous, and
sends them to the Minister of the Interior; my bargain is at end,
but the Minister will have another dish added to his table. Upon
what ground will you dare to affirm that this official expense helps
the national industry? Do you not see, that in this there is only a
reversing of satisfaction and labour? A Minister has his table
better covered, it is true, but it is just as true that an
agriculturist has his field worse drained. A Parisian tavern-keeper
has gained a hundred sous,I grant you; but then you must grant me that
a drainer has been prevented from gaining five francs. It all comes to
this, — that the official and the tavern-keeper being satisfied, is
that which is seen; the field undrained, and the drainer deprived of
his job, is that which is not seen. Dear me! how much trouble there is
in proving that two and two make four; and if you succeed in proving
it, it is said, "the thing is so plain it is quite tiresome," and they
vote as if you had proved nothing at all.
IV. THEATRES AND FINE ARTS
Ought the State to support the arts?
There is certainly much to be said on both sides of this
question. It may be said, in favor of the system of voting supplies
for this purpose, that the arts enlarge, elevate, and harmonize the
soul of a nation; that they divert it from too great an absorption
in material occupations, encourage in it a love for the beautiful, and
thus act favourably on its manners, customs, morals, and even on its
industry. It may be asked, what would become of music in France
without her Italian theatre and her Conservatoire; of the dramatic
art. without her Theatre-Francais; of painting and sculpture,
without our collections, galleries, and museums? It might even be
asked, whether, without centralization, and consequently the support
of fine arts, that exquisite taste would be developed which is the
noble appendage of French labour, and which introduces its productions
to the whole world? In the face of such results, would it not be the
height of imprudence to renounce this moderate contribution from all
her citizens, which, in fact, in the eyes of Europe, realizes their
superiority and their glory?
To these and many other reasons, whose force I do not
dispute, arguments no less forcible may be opposed. It might, first of
all, be said, that there is a question of distributive justice in
it. Does the right of the legislator extend to abridging the wages
of the artisan, for the sake of adding to the profits of the artist?
M. Lamartine said, "If you cease to support the theatre, where will
you stop? Will you not necessarily be led to withdraw your support
from your colleges, your museums, your institutes, and your
libraries?" It might be answered, if you desire to support
everything which is good and useful, where will you stop? Will you not
necessarily be led to form a civil list for agriculture, industry,
commerce, benevolence, education? Then, is it certain that
government aid favours the progress of art?
This question is far from being settled, and we see very well
that the theatres which prosper are those which depend upon their
own resources. Moreover, if we come to higher considerations, we may
observe, that wants and desires arise, the one from the other, and
originate in regions which are more and more refined in proportion
as the public wealth allows of their being satisfied; that
Government ought not to take part in this correspondence, because in a
certain condition of present fortune it could not by taxation
stimulate the arts of necessity, without checking those of luxury, and
thus interrupting the natural course of civilization. I may observe,
that these artificial transpositions of wants, tastes, labour, and
population, place the people in a precarious and dangerous position,
without any solid basis.
These are some of the reasons alleged by the adversaries of
State intervention in what concerns the order in which citizens
think their wants and desires should be satisfied, and to which,
consequently, their activity should be directed. I am, I confess,
one of those who think that choice and impulse ought to come from
below and not from above, from the citizen and not from the
legislator; and the opposite doctrine appears to me to tend to the
destruction of liberty and of human dignity.
But, by a deduction as false as it is unjust, do you know
what economists are accused of? It is, that when we disapprove of
Government support, we are supposed to disapprove of the thing
itself whose support is discussed; and to be the enemies of every kind
of activity, because we desire to see those activities, on the one
hand free, and on the other seeking their own reward in themselves.
Thus, if we think that the State should not interfere by taxation in
religious affairs, we are atheists. If we think the State ought not to
interfere by taxation in education, we are hostile to knowledge. If we
say that the State ought not by taxation to give a fictitious value to
land, or to any particular branch of industry, we are enemies to
property and labour. If we think that the State ought not to support
artists, we are barbarians who look upon the arts as useless.
Against such conclusions as these I protest with all my
strength. Far from entertaining the absurd idea of doing away with
religion, education, property, labour, and the arts, when we say
that the State ought to protect the free development of all these
kinds of human activity, without helping some of them at the expense
of others, — we think, on the contrary, that all these living powers of
society would develop themselves more harmoniously under the influence
of liberty; and that, under such an influence no one of them would, as
is now the case, be a source of trouble, of abuses, of tyranny, and
Our adversaries consider, that an activity which is neither
aided by supplies, nor regulated by Government, is an activity
destroyed. We think just the contrary. Their faith is in the
legislator, not in mankind; ours is in mankind, not in the legislator.
Thus M. Lamartine said, "Upon this principle we must abolish
the public exhibitions, which are the honour and the wealth of this
country." But I would say to M. Lamartine, — According to your way of
thinking, not to support is to abolish; because, setting out upon
the maxim that nothing exists independently of the will of the
State, you conclude that nothing lives but what the State causes to
live. But I oppose to this assertion the very example which you have
chosen, and beg you to remark, that the grandest and noblest of
exhibitions, one which has been conceived in the most liberal and
universal spirit — and I might even make use of the term humanitary,
for it is no exaggeration — is the exhibition now preparing in
London; the only one in which no Government is taking any part, and
which is being paid for by no tax.
To return to the fine arts: — there are, I repeat, many strong
reasons to be brought, both for and against the system of Government
assistance. The reader must see, that the especial object of this work
leads me neither to explain these reasons, nor to decide in their
favour, nor against them.
But M. Lamartine has advanced one argument which I cannot
pass by in silence, for it is closely connected with this economic
study. "The economical question, as regards theatres, is comprised
in one word — labour. It matters little what is the nature of this
labour; it is as fertile, as productive a labour as any other kind
of labour in the nation. The theatres in France, you know, feed and
salary no less than 80,000 workmen of different kinds; painters,
masons, decorators, costumers, architects, &c., which constitute the
very life and movement of several parts of this capital, and on this
account they ought to have your sympathies." Your sympathies! say,
rather, your money.
And further on he says: "The pleasures of Paris are the
labour and the consumption of the provinces, and the luxuries of the
rich are the wages and bread of 200,000 workmen of every
description, who live by the manifold industry of the theatres on
the surface of the republic, and who receive from these noble
pleasures, which render France illustrious, the sustenance of their
lives and the necessaries of their families and children. It is to
them that you will give 60,000 francs." (Very well; very well. Great
applause.) For my part I am constrained to say, "Very bad! Very
bad!" Confining his opinion, of course, within the bounds of the
economical question which we are discussing.
Yes, it is to the workmen of the theatres that a part, at
least, of these 60,000 francs will go; a few bribes, perhaps, may be
abstracted on the way. Perhaps, if we were to look a little more
closely into the matter, we might find that the cake had gone
another way, and that these workmen were fortunate who had come in for
a few crumbs. But I will allow, for the sake of argument, that the
entire sum does go to the painters, decorators, &c.
This is that which is seen. But whence does it come? This is
the other side of the question, and quite as important as the
former. Where do these 60,000 francs spring from? and where would they go
if a vote of the Legislature did not direct them first towards the Rue
Rivoli and thence towards the Rue Grenelle? This is what is not
seen. Certainly, nobody will think of maintaining that the legislative
vote has caused this sum to be hatched in a ballot urn; that it is a
pure addition made to the national wealth; that but for this
miraculous vote these 60,000 francs would have been for ever invisible
and impalpable. It must be admitted that all that the majority can do,
is to decide that they shall be taken from one place to be sent to
another; and if they take one direction, it is only because they
have been diverted from another.
This being the case, it is clear that the taxpayer, who has
contributed one franc, will no longer have this franc at his own
disposal. It is clear that he will be deprived of some gratification
to the amount of one franc; and that the workman, whoever he may be,
who would have received it from him, will be deprived of a benefit
to that amount. Let us not, therefore, be led by a childish illusion
into believing that the vote of the 60,000 francs may add any thing
whatever to the well-being of the country, and to the national labour.
It displaces enjoyments, it transposes wages — that is all.
Will it be said that for one kind of gratification, and one
kind of labour, it substitutes more urgent, more moral, more
reasonable gratifications and labour? I might dispute this; I might
say, by taking 60,000 francs from the tax-payers, you diminish tile
wages of labourers, drainers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and increase in
proportion those of the singers.
There is nothing to prove that this latter class calls for more
sympathy than the former. M. Lamartine does not say that it is so.
He himself says, that the labour of the theatres is as fertile, as
productive as any other (not more so); and this may be doubted; for
the best proof that the latter is not so fertile as the former lies in
this, that the other is to be called upon to assist it.
But this comparison between the value and the intrinsic merit
of different kinds of labour, forms no part of my present subject. All
I have to do here is to show, that if M. Lamartine and those persons
who commend his line of argument have seen on one side the salaries
gained by the providers of the comedians, they ought on the other to
have seen the salaries lost by the providers of the taxpayers; for
want of this, they have exposed themselves to ridicule by mistaking
a displacement for a gain. If they were true to their doctrine,
there would be no limits to their demands for Government aid; for that
which is true of one franc and of 60,000 is true, under parallel
circumstances, of a hundred millions of francs.
When taxes are the subject of discussion, Gentlemen, you
ought to prove their utility by reasons from the root of the matter,
but not by this unlucky assertion — "The public expenses support the
working classes." This assertion disguises the important fact, that
public expenses always supersede private expenses, and that
therefore we bring a livelihood to one workman instead of another, but
add nothing to the share of the working class as a whole. Your
arguments are fashionable enough, but they are too absurd to be
justified by anything like reason.
V. PUBLIC WORKS
Nothing is more natural than that a nation, after having
assured itself that an enterprise will benefit the community, should
have it executed by means of a general assessment. But I lose
patience, I confess, when I hear this economic blunder advanced in
support of such a project. "Besides, it will be a means of creating
labour for the workmen."
The State opens a road, builds a palace, straightens a
street, cuts a canal; and so gives work to certain workmen — this is
what is seen: but it deprives certain other workmen of work, and
this is what is not seen.
The road is begun. A thousand workmen come every morning, leave
every evening, and take their wages — this is certain. If the road
had not been decreed, if the supplies had not been voted, these good
people would have had neither work nor salary there; this also is
But is this all? does not the operation, as a whole, contain
something else? At the moment when M. Dupin pronounces the emphatic
words, "The Assembly has adopted," do the millions descend
miraculously on a moon-beam into the coffers of MM. Fould and
Bineau? In order that the evolution may be complete, as it is said,
must not the State organise the receipts as well as the expenditure?
must it not set its tax-gatherers and tax-payers to work, the former to
gather, and the latter to pay? Study the question, now, in both its
elements. While you state the destination given by the State to the
millions voted, do not neglect to state also the destination which the
taxpayer would have given, bat cannot now give, to the same. Then
you will understand that a public enterprise is a coin with two sides.
Upon one is engraved a labourer at work, with this device, that
which is seen; on the other is a labourer out of work, with the
device, that which is not seen.
The sophism which this work is intended to refute, is the
more dangerous when applied to public works, inasmuch as it serves
to justify the most wanton enterprises and extravagance. When a
railroad or a bridge are of real utility, it is sufficient to
mention this utility. But if it does not exist, what do they do?
Recourse is had to this mystification: "We must find work for the
Accordingly, orders are given that the drains in the
Champ-de-Mars be made and unmade. The great Napoleon, it is said,
thought he was doing a very philanthropic work by causing ditches to
be made and then filled up. He said, therefore, "What signifies the
result? All we want is to see wealth spread among the labouring
But let us go to the root of the matter. We are deceived by
money. To demand the cooperation of all the citizens in a common work,
in the form of money, is in reality to demand a concurrence in kind;
for every one procures, by his own labour, the sum to which he is
taxed. Now, if all the citizens were to be called together, and made
to execute, in conjunction, a work useful to all, this would be easily
understood; their reward would be found in the results of the work
But after having called them together, if you force them to
make roads which no one will pass through, palaces which no one will
inhabit, and this under the pretext of finding them work, it would
be absurd, and they would have a right to argue, "With this labour
we have nothing to do; we prefer working on our own account."
A proceeding which consists in making the citizens cooperate in
giving money but not labour, does not, in any way, alter the general
results. The only thing is, that the loss would react upon all
parties. By the former, those whom the State employs, escape their
part of the loss, by adding it to that which their fellow-citizens
have already suffered.
There is an article in our constitution which says: — "Society
favours and encourages the development of labour — by the establishment
of public works, by the State, the departments, and the parishes, as a
means of employing persons who are in want of work."
As a temporary measure, on any emergency, during a hard winter,
this interference with the tax-payers may have its use. It acts in the
same way as securities. It adds nothing either to labour or to
wages, but it takes labour and wages from ordinary times to give them,
at a loss it is true, to times of difficulty.
As a permanent, general, systematic measure, it is nothing else
than a ruinous mystification, an impossibility, which shows a little
excited labour which is seen, and bides a great deal of prevented
labour which is not seen.
Society is the total of the forced or voluntary services
which men perform for each other; that is to say, of public services
and private services.
The former, imposed and regulated by the law, which it is not
always easy to change, even when it is desirable, may survive with
it their own usefulness, and still preserve the name of public
services, even when they are no longer services at all, but rather
public annoyances. The latter belong to the sphere of the will, of
individual responsibility. Every one gives and receives what he
wishes, and what he can, after a debate. They have always the
presumption of real utility, in exact proportion to their
This is the reason why the former description of services so
often become stationary, while the latter obey the law of progress.
While the exaggerated development of public services, by the
waste of strength which it involves, fastens upon society a fatal
sycophancy, it is a singular thing that several modern sects,
attributing this character to free and private services, are
endeavouring to transform professions into functions.
These sects violently oppose what they call intermediates. They
would gladly suppress the capitalist, the banker, the speculator,
the projector, the merchant, and the trader, accusing them of
interposing between production and consumption, to extort from both,
without giving either anything in return. Or rather, they would
transfer to the State the work which they accomplish, for this work
cannot be suppressed.
The sophism of the Socialists on this point is showing to the
public what it pays to the intermediates in exchange for their
services, and concealing from it what is necessary to be paid to the
State. Here is the usual conflict between what is before our eyes, and
what is perceptible to the mind only, between what is seen, and what
is not seen.
It was at the time of the scarcity, in 1847, that the Socialist
schools attempted and succeeded in popularizing their fatal theory.
They knew very well that the most absurd notions have always a
chance with people who are suffering; malisunda fames.
Therefore, by the help of the fine words, "trafficking in men
by men, speculation on hunger, monopoly," they began to blacken
commerce, and to cast a veil over its benefits.
"What can be the use," they say, "of leaving to the merchants
the care of importing food from the United States and the Crimea?
Why do not the State, the departments, and the towns, organize a
service for provisions, and a magazine for stores? They would sell
at a return price, and the people, poor things, would be exempted from
the tribute which they pay to free, that is, to egotistical,
individual, and anarchical commerce."
The tribute paid by the people to commerce, is that which is
seen. The tribute which the people would pay to the State, or to its
agents, in the Socialist system, is what is not seen.
In what does this pretended tribute, which the people pay to
commerce, consist? In this: that two men render each other a mutual
service, in all freedom, and under the pressure of competition and
When the hungry stomach is at Paris, and corn which can satisfy
it is at Odessa, the suffering cannot cease till the corn is brought
into contact with the stomach. There are three means by which this
contact may be effected. 1st. The famished men may go themselves and
fetch the corn. 2nd. They may leave this task to those to whose
trade it belongs. 3rd. They may club together, and give the office
in charge to public functionaries. Which of these three methods
possesses the greatest advantages? In every time, in all countries,
and the more free, enlightened, and experienced they are, men have
voluntarily chosen the second. I confess that this is sufficient, in
my opinion, to justify this choice. I cannot believe that mankind,
as a whole, is deceiving itself upon a point which touches it so
nearly. But let us consider the subject.
For thirty-six millions of citizens to go and fetch the corn
they want from Odessa, is a manifest impossibility. The first means,
then, goes for nothing. The consumers cannot act for themselves.
They must, of necessity, have recourse to intermediates, officials
But, observe, that the first of these three means would be
the most natural. In reality, the hungry man has to fetch his corn. It
is a task which concerns himself; a service due to himself. If another
person, on whatever ground, performs this service for him, takes the
task upon himself, this latter has a claim upon him for a
compensation. I mean by this to say that intermediates contain in
themselves the principle of remuneration.
However that may be, since we must refer to what the Socialists
call a parasite, I would ask, which of the two is the most exacting
parasite, the merchant or the official?
Commerce (free, of course, otherwise I could not reason upon
it), commerce, I say, is led by its own interests to study the
seasons, to give daily statements of the state of the crops, to
receive information from every part of the globe, to foresee wants, to
take precautions beforehand. It has vessels always ready,
correspondents everywhere; and it is its immediate interest to buy
at the lowest possible price, to economize in all the details of its
operations, and to attain the greatest results by the smallest
efforts. It is not the French merchants only who are occupied in
procuring provisions for France in time of need, and if their interest
leads them irresistibly to accomplish their task at the smallest
possible cost, the competition which they create amongst each other
leads them no less irresistibly to cause the consumers to partake of
the profits of those realized savings. The corn arrives; it is to
the interest of commerce to sell it as soon as possible, so as to
avoid risks, to realize its funds, and begin again the first
Directed by the comparison of prices, it distributes food
over the whole surface of the country, beginning always at the highest
price, that is, where the demand is the greatest. It is impossible
to imagine an organization more completely calculated to meet the
interest of those who are in want; and the beauty of this
organization, unperceived as it is by the Socialists, results from the
very fact that it is free. It is true, the consumer is obliged to
reimburse commerce for the expenses of conveyance, freight,
store-room, commission, &c.; but can any system be devised, in which
he who eats corn is not obliged to defray the expenses, whatever
they may be, of bringing it within his reach? The remuneration for the
service performed has to be paid also: but as regards its amount, this
is reduced to the smallest possible sum by competition; and as
regards its justice, it would be very strange if the artisans of Paris
would not work for the artisans of Marseilles, when the merchants of
Marseilles work for the artisans of Paris.
If, according to the Socialist invention, the State were to
stand in the stead of commerce, what would happen? I should like to be
informed where the saving would be to the public? Would it be in
the price of purchase? Imagine the delegates of 40,000 parishes
arriving at Odessa on a given day, and on the day of need; imagine the
effect upon prices. Would the saving be in the expenses? Would fewer
vessels be required, fewer sailors, fewer transports, fewer sloops, or
would you be exempt from the payment of all these things? Would it
be in the profits of the merchants? Would your officials go to
Odessa for nothing? Would they travel and work on the principle of
fraternity? Must they not live? must not they be paid for their
time? And do you believe that these expenses would not exceed a
thousand times the two or three per cent which the merchant gains,
at the rate at which he is ready to treat?
And then consider the difficulty of levying so many taxes,
and of dividing so much food. Think of the injustice, of the abuses
inseparable for such an enterprise. Think of the responsibility
which would weigh upon the Government.
The Socialists who have invented these follies, and who, in the
days of distress, have introduced them into the minds of the masses,
take to themselves literally the title of advanced men; and it is
not without some danger that custom, that tyrant of tongues,
authorizes the term, and the sentiment which it involves. Advanced!
This supposes that these gentlemen can see further than the common
people; that their only fault is, that they are too much in advance of
their age, and if the time is not yet come for suppressing certain
free services, pretended parasites, the fault is to be attributed to
the public, which is in the rear of socialism. I say, from my soul and
my conscience, the reverse is the truth; and I know not to what
barbarous age we should have to go back, if we would find the level of
Socialist knowledge on this subject. These modern sectarians
incessantly oppose association to actual society. They overlook the
fact, that society, under a free regulation, is a true association,
far superior to any of those which proceed from their fertile
Let me illustrate this by an example. Before a man, when he
gets up in the morning, can put on a coat, ground must have been
enclosed, broken up, drained, tilled, and sown with a particular
kind of plant; flocks must have been fed, and have given their wool;
this wool must have been spun, woven, dyed, and converted into
cloth; this cloth must have been cut, sewed, and made into a
garment. And this series of operations implies a number of others;
it supposes the employment of instruments for ploughing, &c.,
sheepfolds, sheds, coal, machines, carriages, &c.
If society were not a perfectly real association, a person
who wanted a coat would be reduced to the necessity of working in
solitude; that is, of performing for himself the innumerable parts
of this series, from the first stroke of the pickaxe to the last
stitch which concludes the work. But, thanks to the sociability
which is the distinguishing character of our race, these operations
are distributed amongst a multitude of workers; and they are further
subdivided, for the common good, to an extent that, as the consumption
becomes more active, one single operation is able to support a new
Then comes the division of the profits, which operates
according to the contingent value which each has brought to the entire
work. If this is not association, I should like to know what is.
Observe, that as no one of these workers has obtained the
smallest particle of matter from nothingness, they are confined to
performing for each other mutual services, and to helping each other
in a common object, and that all may be considered, with respect to
others, intermediates. If, for instance, in the course of the
operation, the conveyance becomes important enough to occupy one
person, the spinning another, the weaving another, why should the
first be considered a parasite more than the other two? The conveyance
must be made, must it not? Does not he who performs it, devote to it
his time and trouble? and by so doing does he not spare that of his
colleagues? Do these do more or other than this for him? Are they
not equally dependent for remuneration, that is, for the division of
the produce, upon the law of reduced price? Is it not in all
liberty, for the common good, that these arrangements are entered
into? What do we want with a Socialist then, who, under pretence of
organizing for us, comes despotically to break up our voluntary
arrangements, to check the division of labour, to substitute
isolated efforts for combined ones, and to send civilization back?
Is association, as I describe it here, in itself less association,
because every one enters and leaves it freely, chooses his place in
it, judges and bargains for himself on his own responsibility, and
brings with him the spring and warrant of personal interest? That it
may deserve this name, is it necessary that a pretended reformer
should come and impose upon us his plan and his will, and as it
were, to concentrate mankind in himself?
The more we examine these advanced schools, the more do we
become convinced that there is but one thing at the root of them:
ignorance proclaiming itself infallible, and claiming despotism in the
name of this infallibility.
I hope the reader will excuse this digression. It may not be
altogether useless, at a time when declamations, springing from St.
Simonian, Phalansterian, and Icarian books, are invoking the press and
the tribune, and which seriously threaten the liberty of labour and
M. Prohibant (it was not I who gave him this name, but M.
Charles Dupin) devoted his time and capital to converting the ore
found on his land into iron. As nature had been more lavish towards
the Belgians, they furnished the French with iron cheaper than M.
Prohibant, which means, that all the French, or France, could obtain a
given quantity of iron with less labour by buying it of the honest
Flemings; therefore, guided by their own interest, they did not fail
to do so, and every day there might be seen a multitude of
nail-smiths, blacksmiths, cartwrights, machinists, farriers, and
labourers, going themselves, or sending intermediates, to supply
themselves in Belgium. This displeased M. Prohibant exceedingly.
At first, it occurred to him to put an end to this abuse by his
own efforts; it was the least he could do, for he was the only
sufferer. "I will take my carbine," said he; "I will put four
pistols into my belt; I will fill my cartridge box; I will gird on
my sword, and go thus equipped to the frontier. There, the first
blacksmith, nailsmith, farrier, machinist, or locksmith, who
presents himself to do his own business and not mine, I will kill,
to teach him how to live." At the moment of starting, M. Prohibant
made a few reflections which calmed down his warlike ardour a
little. He said to himself, "In the first place, it is not
absolutely impossible that the purchasers of iron, my countrymen and
enemies, should take the thing ill, and, instead of letting me kill
them, should kill me instead; and then, even were I to call out all my
servants, we should not be able to defend the passages. In short, this
proceeding would cost me very dear; much more so than the result would
M. Prohibant was on the point of resigning himself to his sad
fate, that of being only as free as the rest of the world, when a
ray of light darted across his brain. He recollected that at Paris
there is a great manufactory of laws. "What is a law?" said he to
himself. "It is a measure to which, when once it is decreed, be it
good or bad, everybody is bound to conform. For the execution of the
same a public force is organized, and to constitute the said public
force, men and money are drawn from the nation. If, then, I could only
get the great Parisian manufactory to pass a little law, 'Belgian iron
is prohibited,' I should obtain the following results: The
Government would replace the few valets that I was going to send to
the frontier by 20,000 of the sons of those refractory blacksmiths,
farmers, artisans, machinists, locksmiths, nailsmiths, and
labourers. Then, to keep these 20,000 custom-house officers in
health and good humour, it would distribute amongst them 25,000,000
of francs, taken from these blacksmiths, nailsmiths, artisans, and
labourers. They would guard the frontier much better; would cost me
nothing; I should not be exposed to the brutality of the brokers,
should sell the iron at my own price, and have the sweet
satisfaction of seeing our great people shamefully mystified. That
would teach them to proclaim themselves perpetually the harbingers and
promoters of progress in Europe. Oh! it would be a capital joke, and
deserves to be tried."
So M. Prohibant went to the law manufactory. Another time,
perhaps, I shall relate the story of his underhand dealings, but now I
shall merely mention his visible proceedings. He brought the following
consideration before the view of the legislating gentlemen:—
"Belgian iron is sold in France at ten francs, which obliges me
to sell mine at the same price. I should like to sell at fifteen,
but cannot do so on account of this Belgian iron, which I wish was
at the bottom of the Red Sea. I beg you will make a law that no more
Belgian iron shall enter France. Immediately I raise my price five
francs, and these are the consequences: "For every hundred-weight of
iron that I shall deliver to the public, I shall receive fifteen
francs instead of ten; I shall grow rich more rapidly, extend my
traffic, and employ more workmen. My workmen and I shall spend much
more freely to the great advantage of our tradesmen for miles
around. These latter, having more custom, will furnish more employment
to trade, and activity on both sides will increase in the country.
This fortunate piece of money, which you will drop into my strong-box,
will, like a stone thrown into a lake, give birth to an infinite
number of concentric circles."
Charmed with his discourse, delighted to learn that it is so
easy to promote, by legislating, the prosperity of a people, the
law-makers voted the restriction. "Talk of labour and economy," they
said, "what is the use of these painful means of increasing the
national wealth, when all that is wanted for this object is a Decree?"
And, in fact, the law produced all the consequences announced
by M. Prohibant; the only thing was, it produced others which he had
not foreseen. To do him justice, his reasoning was not false, but only
incomplete. In endeavouring to obtain a privilege, he had taken
cognizance of the effects which are seen, leaving in the background
those which are not seen. He had pointed out only two personages,
whereas there are three concerned in the affair. It is for us to
supply this involuntary or premeditated omission.
It is true, the crown-piece, thus directed by law into M.
Prohibant's strong-box, is advantageous to him and to those whose
labour it would encourage; and if the Act had caused the crownpiece to
descend from the moon, these good effects would not have been
counterbalanced by any corresponding evils. Unfortunately, the
mysterious piece of money does not come from the moon, but from the
pocket of a blacksmith, or a nail-smith, or a cartwright, or a
farrier, or a labourer, or a shipwright; in a word, from James B., who
gives it now without receiving a grain more of iron than when he was
paying ten francs. Thus, we can see at a glance that this very much
alters the state of the case; for it is very evident that M.
Prohibant's profit is compensated by James B.'s loss, and all that
M. Prohibant can do with the crown-piece, for the encouragement of
national labour, James B. might have done himself. The stone has
only been thrown upon one part of the lake, because the law has
prevented it from being thrown upon another.
Therefore, that which is not seen supersedes that which is
seen, and at this point there remains, as the residue of the
operation, a piece of injustice, and, sad to say, a piece of injustice
perpetrated by the law!
This is not all. I have said that there is always a third
person left in the back-ground. I must now bring him forward, that
he may reveal to us a second loss of five francs. Then we shall have
the entire results of the transaction.
James B. is the possessor of fifteen francs, the fruit of his
labour. He is now free. What does he do with his fifteen francs? He
purchases some article of fashion for ten francs, and with it he
pays (or the intermediate pay for him) for the hundred-weight of
Belgian iron. After this he has five francs left. He does not throw
them into the river, but (and this is what is not seen) he gives
them to some tradesman in exchange for some enjoyment; to a
bookseller, for instance, for Bossuet's "Discourse on Universal
Thus, as far as national labour is concerned, it is
encouraged to the amount of fifteen francs, viz.: — ten francs for
the Paris article; five francs to the bookselling trade.
As to James B., he obtains for his fifteen francs two
1st. A hundred-weight of iron.
2nd. A book.
The Decree is put in force. How does it affect the condition of
James B.? How does it affect the national labour?
James B. pays every centime of his five francs to M. Prohibant,
and therefore is deprived of the pleasure of a book, or of some
other thing of equal value. He loses five francs. This must be
admitted; it cannot fail to be admitted, that when the restriction
raises the price of things, the consumer loses the difference.
But, then, it is said, national labour is the gainer.
No, it is not the gainer; for, since the Act, it is no more
encouraged than it was before, to the amount of fifteen francs.
The only thing is that, since the Act, the fifteen francs of
James B. go to the metal trade, while, before it was put in force,
they were divided between the milliner and the bookseller.
The violence used by M. Prohibant on the frontier, or that
which he causes to be used by the law, may be judged very
differently in a moral point of view. Some persons consider that
plunder is perfectly justifiable, if only sanctioned by law. But,
for myself, I cannot imagine anything more aggravating. However it may
be, the economical results are the same in both cases.
Look at the thing as you will; but if you are impartial, you
will see that no good can come of legal or illegal plunder. We do
not deny that it affords M. Prohibant, or his trade, or, if you
will, national industry, a profit of five francs. But we affirm that
it causes two losses, one to James B., who pays fifteen francs where
he otherwise would have paid ten; the other to national industry,
which does not receive the difference. Take your choice of these two
losses, and compensate with it the profit which we allow. The other
will prove not the less a dead loss. Here is the moral: To take by
violence is not to produce, but to destroy. Truly, if taking by
violence was producing, this country of ours would be a little
richer than she is.
"A curse on machines! Every year, their increasing power
devotes millions of workmen to pauperism, by depriving them of work,
and therefore of wages and bread. A curse on machines!"
This is the cry which is raised by vulgar prejudice, and echoed
in the journals.
But to curse machines, is to curse the spirit of humanity!
It puzzles me to conceive how any man can feel any satisfaction
in such a doctrine.
For, if true, what is its inevitable consequence? That there is
no activity, prosperity, wealth, or happiness possible for any people,
except for those who are stupid and inert, and to whom God has not
granted the fatal gift of knowing how to think, to observe, to
combine, to invent, and to obtain the greatest results with the
smallest means. On the contrary, rags, mean huts, poverty, and
inanition, are the inevitable lot of every nation which seeks and
finds in iron, fire, wind, electricity, magnetism, the laws of
chemistry and mechanics, in a word, in the powers of nature, an
assistance to its natural powers. We might as well say with Rousseau
— "Every man that thinks is a depraved animal."
This is not all; if this doctrine is true, since all men
think and invent, since all, from first to last, and at every moment
of their existence, seek the cooperation of the powers of nature,
and try to make the most of a little, by reducing either the work of
their hands, or their expenses, so as to obtain the greatest
possible amount of gratification with the smallest possible amount
of labour, it must follow, as a matter of course, that the whole of
mankind is rushing towards its decline, by the same mental
aspiration towards progress, which torments each of its members.
Hence, it ought to be made known, by statistics, that the
inhabitants of Lancashire, abandoning that land of machines, seek
for work in Ireland, where they are unknown; and, by history, that
barbarism darkens the epochs of civilization, and that civilization
shaies in times of ignorance and barbarism.
There is evidently in this mass of contradictions something
which revolts us, and which leads us to suspect that the problem
contains within it an element of solution which has not been
Here is the whole mystery: behind that which is seen, lies
something which is not seen. I will endeavour to bring it to light.
The demonstration I shall give will only be a repetition of the
preceding one, for the problems are one and the same.
Men have a natural propensity to make the best bargain they
can, when not prevented by an opposing force; that is, they like to
obtain as much as they possibly can for their labour, whether the
advantage is obtained from a foreign producer, or a skillful
The theoretical objection which is made to this propensity is
the same in both cases. In each case it is reproached with the
apparent inactivity which it causes to labour. Now, labour rendered
available, not inactive, is the very thing which determines it. And,
therefore, in both cases, the same practical obstacle — force, is
opposed to it also. The legislator prohibits foreign competition,
and forbids mechanical competition. For what other means can exist for
arresting a propensity which is natural to all men, but that of
depriving them of their liberty?
In many countries, it is true, the legislator strikes at only
one of these competitions, and confines himself to grumbling at the
other. This only proves one thing, that is, that the legislator is
Harm Of False Premise
We need not be surprised at this. On a wrong road,
inconsistency is inevitable; if it were not so, mankind would be
sacrificed. A false principle never has been, and never will be,
carried out to the end.
Now for our demonstration, which shall not be a long one.
James B. had two francs which he had gained by two workmen; but
it occurs to him, that an arrangement of ropes and weights might be
made which would diminish the labour by half. Thus he obtains the same
advantage, saves a franc, and discharges a workman.
He discharges a workman: this is that which is seen.
And seeing this only, it is said, "See how misery attends
civilization; this is the way that liberty is fatal to equality. The
human mind has made a conquest, and immediately a workman is cast into
the gulf of pauperism. James B. may possibly employ the two workmen,
but then he will give them only half their wages for they will compete
with each other, and offer themselves at the lowest price. Thus the
rich are always growing richer, and the poor, poorer. Society wants
remodelling." A very fine conclusion, and worthy of the preamble.
Happily, preamble and conclusion are both false, because,
behind the half of the phenomenon which is seen, lies the other half
which is not seen.
The franc saved by James B. is not seen, no more are the
necessary effects of this saving.
Since, in consequence of his invention, James B. spends only
one franc on hand labour in the pursuit of a determined advantage,
another franc remains to him.
If, then, there is in the world a workman with unemployed arms,
there is also in the world a capitalist with an unemployed franc.
These two elements meet and combine, and it is as clear as daylight,
that between the supply and demand of labour, and between the supply
and demand of wages, the relation is in no way changed.
The invention and the workman paid with the first franc, now
perform the work which was formerly accomplished by two workmen. The
second workman, paid with the second franc, realizes a new kind of
What is the change, then, which has taken place? An
additional national advantage has been gained; in other words, the
invention is a gratuitous triumph — a gratuitous profit for mankind.
From the form which I have given to my demonstration, the
following inference might be drawn: — "It is the capitalist who reaps
all the advantage from machinery. The working class, if it suffers
only temporarily, never profits by it, since, by your own showing,
they displace a portion of the national labour, without diminishing
it, it is true, but also without increasing it."
I do not pretend, in this slight treatise, to answer every
objection; the only end I have in view, is to combat a vulgar,
widely spread, and dangerous prejudice. I want to prove, that a new
machine only causes the discharge of a certain number of hands, when
the remuneration which pays them as abstracted by force. These
hands, and this remuneration, would combine to produce what it was
impossible to produce before the invention; whence it follows that the
final result is an increase of advantages for equal labour.
Who is the gainer by these additional advantages?
First, it is true, the capitalist, the inventor; the first who
succeeds in using the machine; and this is the reward of his genius
and his courage. In this case, as we have just seen, he effects a
saving upon the expense of production, which, in whatever way it may
be spent (and it always is spent), employs exactly as many hands as
the machine caused to be dismissed.
But soon competition obliges him to lower his prices in
proportion to the saving itself; and then it is no longer the inventor
who reaps the benefit of the invention — it is the purchaser of what is
produced, the consumer, the public, including the workmen; in a
And that which is not seen is, that the saving thus procured
for all consumers creates a fund whence wages may be supplied, and
which replaces that which the machine has exhausted.
Thus, to recur to the forementioned example, James B. obtains a
profit by spending two francs in wages. Thanks to his invention, the
hand labour costs him only one franc. So long as he sells the thing
produced at the same price, he employs one workman less in producing
this particular thing, and that is what is seen; but there is an
additional workman employed by the franc which James B. has saved.
This is that which is not seen.
When, by the natural progress of things, James B. is obliged to
lower the price of the thing produced by one franc, then he no
longer realizes a saving; then he has no longer a franc to dispose of,
to procure for the national labour a new production; but then
another gainer takes his place, and this gainer is mankind. Whoever
buys the thing he has produced, pays a franc less, and necessarily
adds this saving to the fund of wages; and this, again, is what is not
Another solution, founded upon facts, has been given of this
problem of machinery.
It was said, machinery reduces the expense of production, and
lowers the price of the thing produced. The reduction of the profit
causes an increase of consumption, which necessitates an increase of
production, and, finally, the introduction of as many workmen, or
more, after the invention as were necessary before it. As a proof of
this, printing, weaving, &c., are instanced.
This demonstration is not a scientific one. It would lead us to
conclude, that if the consumption of the particular production of
which we are speaking remains stationary, or nearly so, machinery must
injure labour. This is not the case.
Suppose that in a certain country all the people wore hats; if,
by machinery, the price could be reduced half, it would not
necessarily follow that the consumption would be doubled.
Would you say, that in this case a portion of the national
labour had been paralyzed? Yes, according to the vulgar demonstration;
but, according to mine, No; for even if not a single hat more should
be bought in the country, the entire fund of wages would not be the
less secure. That which failed to go to the hat-making trade would
be found to have gone to the economy realized by all the consumers,
and would thence serve to pay for all the labour which the machine had
rendered useless, and to excite a new development of all the trades.
And thus it is that things go on. I have known newspapers to cost
eighty francs, now we pay forty-eight: here is a saving of
thirty-two francs to the subscribers. It is not certain, or, at least,
necessary, that the thirty-two francs should take the direction of
the journalist trade; but it is certain, and necessary too, that if
they do not take this direction they will take another. One makes
use of them for taking in more newspapers; another, to get better
living; another, better clothes; another, better furniture. It is thus
that the trades are bound together. They form a vast whole, whose
different parts communicate by secret canals; what is saved by one,
profits all. It is very important for us to understand, that savings
never take place at the expense of labour and wares.
In all times, but more especially of late years, attempts
have been made to extend wealth by the extension of credit.
I believe it is no exaggeration to say, that since the
revolution of February, the Parisian presses have issued more than
10,000 pamphlets, crying up this solution of the social problem. The
only basis, alas! of this solution, is an optical delusion — if,
indeed, an optical delusion can be called a basis at all.
The first thing done is to confuse cash with produce, then
paper money with cash; and from these two confusions it is pretended
that a reality can be drawn.
It is absolutely necessary in this question to forget money,
coin, bills, and the other instruments by means of which productions
pass from hand to hand; our business is with the productions
themselves, which are the real objects of the loan; for when a
farmer borrows fifty francs to buy a plough, it is not, in reality,
the fifty francs which are lent to him, but the plough: and when a
merchant borrows 20,000 francs to purchase a house, it is not the
20,000 francs which he owes, but the house. Money only appears for the
sake of facilitating the arrangements between the parties.
Peter may not be disposed to lend his plough, but James may
be willing to lend his money. What does William do in this case? He
borrows money of James, and with this money he buys the plough of
But, in point of fact, no one borrows money for the sake of the
money itself; money is only the medium by which to obtain possession
of productions. Now, it is impossible in any country to transmit
from one person to another more productions than that country
Whatever may be the amount of cash and of paper which is in
circulation, the whole of the borrowers cannot receive more ploughs,
houses, tools, and supplies of raw material, than the lenders
altogether can furnish; for we must take care not to forget, that
every borrower supposes a lender, and that what is once borrowed
implies a loan.
This granted, what advantage is there in institutions of
credit? It is, that they facilitate, between borrowers and lenders,
the means of finding and treating with each other; but it is not in
their power to cause an instantaneous increase of the things to be
borrowed and lent. And yet they ought to be able to do so, if the
aim of the reformers is to be attained, since they aspire to nothing
less than to place ploughs, houses, tools, and provisions in the hands
of all those who desire them.
And how do they intend to effect this?
By making the State security for the loan.
Let us try and fathom the subject, for it contains something
which is seen, and also something which is not seen. We must endeavour
to look at both.
We will suppose that there is but one plough in the world,
and that two farmers apply for it.
Peter is the possessor of the only plough which is to be had in
France; John and James wish to borrow it. John, by his honesty, his
property, and good reputation, offers security. He inspires
confidence; he has credit. James inspires little or no confidence.
It naturally happens that Peter lends his plough to John.
But now, according to the Socialist plan, the State interferes,
and says to Peter, "Lend your plough to James, I will be security
for its return, and this security will be better than that of John,
for he has no one to be responsible for him but himself; and I,
although it is true that I have nothing, dispose of the fortune of the
taxpayers, and it is with their money that, in case of need, I shall
pay you the principal and interest." Consequently, Peter lends his
plough to James: this is what is seen.
And the Socialists rub their hands, and say, "See how well
our plan has answered. Thanks to the intervention of the State, poor
James has a plough. He will no longer be obliged to dig the ground; he
is on the road to make a fortune. It is a good thing for him, and an
advantage to the nation as a whole."
Indeed, gentlemen, it is no such thing; it is no advantage to
the nation, for there is something behind which is not seen.
It is not seen, that the plough is in the hands of James,
only because it is not in those of John.
It is not seen, that if James farms instead of digging, John
will be reduced to the necessity of digging instead of farming.
That, consequently, what was considered an increase of loan, is
nothing but a displacement of loan. Besides, it is not seen that
this displacement implies two acts of deep injustice.
It is an injustice to John, who, after having deserved and
obtained credit by his honesty and activity, sees himself robbed of
It is an injustice to the tax-payers, who are made to pay a
debt which is no concern of theirs.
Will any one say, that Government offers the same facilities to
John as it does to James? But as there is only one plough to be had,
two cannot be lent. The argument always maintains that, thanks to
the intervention of the State, more will be borrowed than there are
things to be lent; for the plough represents here the bulk of
It is true, I have reduced the operation to the most simple
expression of it, but if you submit the most complicated Government
institutions of credit to the same test, you will be convinced that
they can have but on result; viz., to displace credit, not to
augment it. In one country, and in a given time, there is only a
certain amount of capital available, and all are employed. In
guaranteeing the non-payers, the State may, indeed, increase the
number of borrowers, and thus raise the rate of interest (always to
the prejudice of the tax-payer), but it has no power to increase the
number of lenders, and the importance of the total of the loans.
There is one conclusion, however, which I would not for the
world be suspected of drawing. I say, that the law ought not to
favour, artificially, the power of borrowing, but I do not say that it
ought not to restrain them artificially. If, in our system of
mortgage, or in any other, there be obstacles to the diffusion of
the application of credit, let them be got rid of; nothing can be
better or more just than this. But this is all which is consistent
with liberty, and it is all that any who are worthy of the name of
reformers will ask.
Here are four orators disputing for the platform. First, all
the four speak at once; then they speak one after the other. What have
they said? Some very fine things, certainly, about the power and the
grandeur of France; about the necessity of sowing, if we would reap;
about the brilliant future of our gigantic colony; about the advantage
of diverting to a distance the surplus of our population, &c. &c.
Magnificent pieces of eloquence, and always adorned with this
conclusion: — "Vote fifty millions, more or less, for making ports
and roads in Algeria; for sending emigrants hither; for building
houses and breaking up land. By so doing, you will relieve the
French workman, encourage African labour, and give a stimulus to the
commerce of Marseilles. It would be profitable every way."
Yes, it is all very true, if you take no account of the fifty
millions until the moment when the State begins to spend them; if
you only see where they go, and not whence they come; if you look only
at the good they are to do when they come out of the tax-gatherer's
bag, and not at the harm which has been done, and the good which has
been prevented, by putting them into it. Yes, at this limited point of
view, all is profit. The house which is built in Barbary is that which
is seen; the harbour made in Barbary is that which is seen; the work
caused in Barbary is what is seen; a few less hands in France is
what is seen; a great stir with goods at Marseilles is still that
which is seen.
But, besides all this, there is something which is not seen.
The fifty millions expended by the State cannot be spent, as they
otherwise would have been, by the tax-payers. It is necessary to
deduct, from all the good attributed to the public expenditure which
has been effected, all the harm caused by the prevention of private
expense, unless we say that James B. would have done nothing with
the crown that he had gained, and of which the tax had deprived him;
an absurd assertion, for if he took the trouble to earn it, it was
because he expected the satisfaction of using it, He would have
repaired the palings in his garden, which he cannot now do, and this
is that which is not seen. He would have manured his field, which
now he cannot do, and this is what is not seen. He would have added
another story to his cottage, which he cannot do now, and this is what
is not seen. He might have increased the number of his tools, which he
cannot do now, and this is what is not seen. He would have been better
fed, better clothed, have given a better education to his children,
and increased his daughter's marriage portion; this is what is not
seen. He would have become a member of the Mutual Assistance
Society, but now he cannot; this is what is not seen. On one hand, are
the enjoyments of which he has been deprived, and the means of
action which have been destroyed in his hands; on the other, are the
labour of the drainer, the carpenter, the smith, the tailor, the
village schoolmaster, which he would have encouraged, and which are
now prevented — all this is what is not seen.
Much is hoped from the future prosperity of Algeria; be it
so. But the drain to which France is being subjected ought not to be
kept entirely out of sight. The commerce of Marseilles is pointed
out to me; but if this is to be brought about by means of taxation,
I shall always show that an equal commerce is destroyed thereby in
other parts of the country. It is said, "There is an emigrant
transported into Barbary; this is a relief to the population which
remains in the country." I answer, "How can that be, if, in
transporting this emigrant to Algiers, you also transport two or three
times the capital which would have served to maintain him in France?"
The Minister of War has lately asserted, that every
individual transported to Algeria has cost the State 8,000 francs. Now
it is certain that these poor creatures could have lived very well
in France on a capital of 4,000 francs. I ask, how the French
population is relieved, when it is deprived of a man, and of the means
of subsistence of two men?
The only object I have in view is to make it evident to the
reader, that in every public expense, behind the apparent benefit,
there is an evil which it is not so easy to discern. As far as in me
'lies, I would make him form a habit of seeing both, and taking
account of both.
When a public expense is proposed, it ought to be examined in
itself, separately from the pretended encouragement of labour which
results from it, for this encouragement is a delusion. Whatever is
done in this way at the public expense, private expense would have
done all the same; therefore, the interest of labour is always out
of the question.
It is not the object of this treatise to criticize the
intrinsic merit of the public expenditure as applied to Algeria, but I
cannot withhold a general observation. It is, that the presumption
is always unfavourable to collective expenses by way of tax. Why?
For this reason: — First, justice always suffers from it in some
degree. Since James B. had laboured to gain his crown, in the hope of
receiving a gratification from it, it is to be regretted that the
exchequer should interpose, and take from James B. this gratification,
to bestow it upon another. Certainly, it behooves the exchequer, or
those who regulate it, to give good reasons for this. It has been
shown that the State gives a very provoking one, when it says, "With
this crown I shall employ workmen"; for James B. (as soon as he sees
it) will be sure to answer, "It is all very fine, but with this
crown I might employ them myself."
Apart from this reason, others present themselves without
disguise, by which the debate between the exchequer and poor James
becomes much simplified. If the State says to him, "I take your
crown to pay the gendarme, who saves you the trouble of providing
for your own personal safety; for paving the street which you are
passing through every day; for paying the magistrate who causes your
property and your liberty to be respected; to maintain the soldier who
maintains our frontiers," — James B., unless I am much mistaken, will
pay for all this without hesitation. But if the State were to say to
him, I take this crown that I may give you a little prize in case
you cultivate your field well; or that I may teach your son
something that you have no wish that he should learn; or that the
Minister may add another to his score of dishes at dinner; I take it
to build a cottage in Algeria, in which case I must take another crown
every year to keep an emigrant in it, and another hundred to
maintain a soldier to guard this emigrant, and another crown to
maintain a general to guard this soldier," &c., &c., — I think I hear
poor James exclaim, "This system of law is very much like a system
of cheat!" The State foresees the objection, and what does it do? It
jumbles all things together, and brings forward just that provoking
reason which ought to have nothing whatever to do with the question.
It talks of the effect of this crown upon labour; it points to the
cook and purveyor of the Minister; it shows an emigrant, a soldier,
and a general, living upon the crown; it shows, in fact, what is seen,
and if James B. has not learned to take into the account what is not
seen, James B. will be duped. And this is why I want to do all I can
to impress it upon his mind, by repeating it over and over again.
As the public expenses displace labour without increasing it, a
second serious presumption presents itself against them. To displace
labour is to displace labourers, and to disturb the natural laws which
regulate the distribution of the population over the country. If
50,000,000 fr. are allowed to remain in the possession of the
taxpayers, since the tax-payers are everywhere, they encourage
labour in the 40,000 parishes in France. They act like a natural
tie, which keeps every one upon his native soil; they distribute
themselves amongst all imaginable labourers and trades. If the
State, by drawing off these 50,000,000 fr. from the citizens,
accumulates them, and expends them on some given point, it attracts to
this point a proportional quantity of displaced labour, a
corresponding number of labourers, belonging to other parts; a
fluctuating population, which is out of its place, and, I venture to
say, dangerous when the fund is exhausted. Now here is the consequence
(and this confirms all I have said): this feverish activity is, as
it were, forced into a narrow space; it attracts the attention of all;
it is what is seen. The people applaud; they are astonished at the
beauty and facility of the plan, and expect to have it continued and
extended. That which they do not see is, that an equal quantity of
labour, which would probably be more valuable, has been paralyzed over
the rest of France.
XI. FRUGALITY AND LUXURY
It is not only in the public expenditure that what is seen
eclipses what is not seen. Setting aside what relates to political
economy, this phenomenon leads to false reasoning. It causes nations
to consider their moral and their material interests as
contradictory to each other. What can be more discouraging, or more
For instance, there is not a father of a family who does not
think it his duty to teach his children order, system, the habits of
carefulness, of economy, and of moderation in spending money.
There is no religion which does not thunder against pomp and
luxury. This is as it should be; but, on the other hand, how
frequently do we hear the following remarks:—
"To hoard, is to drain the veins of the people."
"The luxury of the great is the comfort of the little."
"Prodigals ruin themselves, but they enrich the State."
"It is the superfluity of the rich which makes bread for the
Here, certainly, is a striking contradiction between the
moral and the social idea.
How many eminent spirits, after having made the assertion,
repose in peace. It is a thing I never could understand, for it
seems to me that nothing can be more distressing than to discover
two opposite tendencies in mankind. Why, it comes to degradation at
each of the extremes: economy brings it to misery; prodigality plunges
it into moral degradation. Happily, these vulgar maxims exhibit
economy and luxury in a false light, taking account, as they do, of
those immediate consequences which are seen, and not of the remote
ones, which are not seen. Let us see if we can rectify this incomplete
view of the case.
Mondor and his brother Aristus, after dividing the paternal
inheritance, have each an income of 50,000 francs. Mondor practises
the fashionable philanthropy. He is what is called a squanderer of
money. He renews his furniture several times a year; changes his
equipages every month. People talk of his ingenious contrivances to
bring them sooner to an end: in short, he surpasses the fast livers of
Balzac and Alexander Dumas.
Thus, everybody is singing his praises. It is, "Tell us about
Mondor? Mondor for ever! He is the benefactor of the workman; a
blessing to the people. It is true, he revels in dissipation; he
splashes the passers-by; his own dignity and that of human nature
are lowered a little; but what of that? He does good with his fortune,
if not with himself. He causes money to circulate; he always sends the
tradespeople away satisfied. Is not money made round that it may
Aristus has adopted a very different plan of life. If he is not
an egotist, he is, at any rate, an individualist, for he considers
expense, seeks only moderate and reasonable enjoyments, thinks of
his children's prospects, and, in fact, he economises.
And what do people say of him? "What is the good of a rich
fellow like him? He is a skinflint. There is something imposing,
perhaps, in the simplicity of his life; and he is humane, too, and
benevolent, and generous, but he calculates. He does not spend his
income; his house is neither brilliant nor bustling. What good does he
do to the paper hangers, the carriage makers, the horse dealers, and
These opinions, which are fatal to morality, are founded upon
what strikes the eye: — the expenditure of the prodigal; and another,
which is out of sight, the equal and even superior expenditure of
But things have been so admirably arranged by the Divine
inventor of social order, that in this, as in everything else,
political economy and morality, far from clashing, agree; and the
wisdom of Aristus is not only more dignified, but still more
profitable, than the folly of Mondor. And when I say profitable, I
do not mean only profitable to Aristus, or even to society in general,
but more profitable to the workmen themselves — to the trade of the
To prove it, it is only necessary to turn the mind's eye to
those hidden consequences of human actions, which the bodily eye
does not see.
Yes, the prodigality of Mondor has visible effects in every
point of view. Everybody can see his landaus, his phaetons, his
berlins, the delicate paintings on his ceilings, his rich carpets, the
brilliant effects of his house. Every one knows that his horses run
upon the turf. The dinners which he gives at the Hotel de Paris
attract the attention of the crowds on the Boulevards; and it is said,
"That is a generous man; far from saving his income, he is very likely
breaking into his capital." This is what is seen.
It is not easy to see, with regard to the interest of
workers, what becomes of the income of Aristus. If we were to trace it
carefully, however, we should see that the whole of it, down to the
last farthing, affords work to the labourers, as certainly as the
fortune of Mondor. Only there is this difference: the wanton
extravagance of Mondor is doomed to be constantly decreasing, and to
come to an end without fail; whilst the wise expenditure of Aristus
will go on increasing from year to year. And if this is the case,
then, most assuredly, the public interest will be in unison with
Aristus spends upon himself and his household 20,000 francs a
year. If that is not sufficient to content him, he does not deserve to
be called a wise man. He is touched by the miseries which oppress
the poorer classes; he thinks he is bound in conscience to afford them
some relief, and therefore he devotes 10,000 francs to acts of
benevolence. Amongst the merchants, the manufacturers, and the
agriculturists, he has friends who are suffering under temporary
difficulties; he makes himself acquainted with their situation, that
he may assist them with prudence and efficiency, and to this work he
devotes 10,000 francs more. Then he does not forget that he has
daughters to portion, and sons for whose prospects it is his duty to
provide, and therefore he considers it a duty to lay by and put out to
interest 10,000 francs every year.
The following is a list of his expenses: —
1st, Personal expenses......... 20,000 fr.
2nd, Benevolent objects........ 10,000
3rd, Offices of friendship..... 10,000
4th, Saving.................... 10,000
Let us examine each of these items, and we shall see that not a
single farthing escapes the national labour.
1st. Personal expenses. — These, as far as work-people and
tradesmen are concerned, have precisely the same effect as an equal
sum spent by Mondor. This is self-evident, therefore we shall say no
more about it.
2nd. Benevolent objects. — The 10,000 francs devoted to this
purpose benefit trade in an equal degree; they reach the butcher,
the baker, the tailor, and the carpenter. The only thing is, that
the bread, the meat, and the clothing are not used by Aristus, but
by those whom he has made his substitutes. Now, this simple
substitution of one consumer for another, in no way effects trade in
general. It is all one, whether Aristus spends a crown, or desires
some unfortunate person to spend it instead.
3rd. Offices of friendship. — The friend to whom Aristus lends
or gives 10,000 francs, does not receive them to bury them; that would
be against the hypothesis. He uses them to pay for goods, or to
discharge debts. In the first case, trade is encouraged. Will any
one pretend to say that it gains more by Mondor's purchase of a
thorough-bred horse for 10,000 francs, than by the purchase of
10,000 francs' worth of stuffs by Aristus or his friend? For, if
this sum serves to pay a debt, a third person appears, viz. the
creditor, who will certainly employ them upon something in his
trade, his household, or his farm. He forms another medium between
Aristus and the workmen. The names only are changed, the expense
remains, and also the encouragement to trade.
4th. Saving. — There remains now the 10,000 francs saved; and it
is here, as regards the encouragement to the arts, to trade, labour,
and the workmen, that Mondor appears far superior to Aristus,
although, in a moral point of view, Aristus shows himself, in some
degree, superior to Mondor.
I can never look at these apparent contradictions between the
great laws of nature, without a feeling of physical uneasiness which
amounts to suffering. Were mankind reduced to the necessity of
choosing between two parties, one of whom injures his interest, and
the other his conscience, we should have nothing to hope from the
future. Happily, this is not the case; and to see Aristus regain his
economical superiority, as well as his moral superiority, it is
sufficient to understand this consoling maxim, which is no less true
from having a paradoxical appearance, "To save, is to spend."
What is Aristus's object in saving 10,000 francs? Is it to bury
them in his garden? No, certainly; he intends to increase his
capital and his income; consequently, this money, instead of being
employed upon his own personal gratification, is used for buying land,
a house, &c., or it is placed in the hands of a merchant or a
banker. Follow the progress of this money in any one of these cases,
and you will be convinced, that through the medium of vendors or
lenders, it is encouraging labour quite as certainly as if Aristus,
following the example of his brother, had exchanged it for
furniture, jewels, and horses.
For when Aristus buys lands or rents for 10,000 francs, he is
determined by the consideration that he does not want to spend this
money. This is why you complain of him.
But, at the same time, the man who sells the land or the
rent, is determined by the consideration that he does want to spend
the 10,000 francs in some way; so that the money is spent in any case,
either by Aristus, or by others in his stead.
With respect to the working class, to the encouragement of
labour, there is only one difference between the conduct of Aristus
and that of Mondor. Mondor spends the money himself and therefore
the effect is seen. Aristus, spending it partly through intermediate
parties, and at a distance, the effect is not seen. But, in fact,
those who know how to attribute effects to their proper causes, will
perceive, that what is not seen is as certain as what is seen. This is
proved by the fact, that in both cases the money circulates, and
does not lie in the iron chest of the wise mall, any more than it does
in that of the spendthrift. It is, therefore, false to say that
economy does actual harm to trade; as described above, it is equally
beneficial with luxury.
But how far superior is it, if, instead of confining our
thoughts to the present moment, we let them embrace a longer period!
Ten years pass away. What is become of Mondor and his
fortune, and his great popularity? Mondor is ruined. Instead of
spending 60,000 francs every year in the social body, he is,
perhaps, a burden to it. In any case, he is no longer the delight of
shopkeepers; he is no longer the patron of the arts and of trade; he
is no longer of any use to the workmen, nor are his successors, whom
he has brought to want.
At the end of the same ten years, Aristus not only continues to
throw his income into circulation, but he adds an increasing sum from
year to year to his expenses. He enlarges the national capital, that
is, the fund which supplies wages, and as it is upon the extent of
this fund that the demand for hands depends, he assists in
progressively increasing the remuneration of the working class; and if
he dies, he leaves children whom he has taught to succeed him in
this work of progress and civilization.
In a moral point of view, the superiority of frugality over
luxury is indisputable. It is consoling to think that it is so in
political economy, to every one who, not confining his views to the
immediate effects of phenomena, knows how to extend his investigations
to their final effects.
XII. HE WHO HAS A RIGHT TO WORK, HAS A RIGHT TO PROFIT
"Brethren, you must club together to find me work at your own
price." This is the right to work; i.e., elementary socialism of the
"Brethren, you must club together to find me work at my own
price." This is the right to profit; i.e., refined socialism, or
socialism of the second degree.
Both of these live upon such of their effects as are seen. They
will die by means of those effects which are not seen.
That which is seen, is the labour and the profit excited by
social combination. That which is not seen, is the labour and the
profit to which this same combination would give rise, if it were left
to the tax-payers.
In 1848, the right to labour for a moment showed two faces.
This was sufficient to ruin it in public opinion.
One of these faces was called national workshops. The other,
forty-five centimes. Millions of francs went daily from the Rue Rivoli
to the national workshops. This was the fair side of the medal.
And this is the reverse. If millions are taken out of a
cash-box, they must first have been put into it. This is why the
organizers of the right to public labour apply to the tax-payers.
Now, the peasants said, "I must pay forty-five centimes; then I
must deprive myself of some clothing. I cannot manure my field; I
cannot repair my house."
And the country workmen said, "As our townsman deprives himself
of same clothing, there will be less work for the tailor; as he does
not improve his field, there will be less work for the drainer; as
he does not repair his house, there will be less work for the
carpenter and mason."
It was then proved that two kinds of meal cannot come out of
one sack, and that the work furnished by the Government was done at
the expense of labour, paid for by the tax-payer. This was the death
of the right to labour, which showed itself as much a chimera as an
injustice. And yet, the right to profit, which is only an exaggeration
of the right to labour, is still alive and flourishing.
Ought not the protectionist to blush at the part he would
make society play?
He says to it, "You must give me work, and, more than that,
lucrative work. I have foolishly fixed upon a trade by which I lose
ten per cent. If you impose a tax of twenty francs upon my countrymen,
and give it to me, I shall be a gainer instead of a loser. Now, profit
is my right; you owe it me." Now, any society which would listen to
this sophist, burden itself with taxes to satisfy him, and not
perceive that the loss to which any trade is exposed is no less a loss
when others are forced to make up for it, such a society, I say, would
deserve the burden inflicted upon it.
Thus we learn, by the numerous subjects which I have treated,
that, to be ignorant of political economy is to allow ourselves to
be dazzled by the immediate effect of a phenomenon; to be acquainted
with it is to embrace in thought and in forethought the whole
compass of effects.
I might subject a host of other questions to the same test; but
I shrink from the monotony of a constantly uniform demonstration,
and I conclude by applying to political economy what Chateaubriand
says of history:—
"There are," he says, "two consequences in history; an
immediate one, which is instantly recognized, and one in the distance,
which is not at first perceived. These consequences often contradict
each other; the former are the results of our own limited wisdom,
the latter, those of that wisdom which endures. The providential event
appears after the human event. God rises up behind men. Deny, if you
will, the supreme counsel; disown its action; dispute about words;
designate, by the term, force of circumstances, or reason, what the
vulgar call Providence; but look to the end of an accomplished fact,
and you will see that it has always produced the contrary of what
was expected from it, if it was not established at first upon morality
— Chateaubriand's Posthumous Memoirs.